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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Way to Keep Students Engaged

Daydreaming and passing notes are so old-school when it comes to classroom distractions these days. Now, students can pass time on their mobile devices, browsing all sorts of web sites instead of paying attention in class.

Ronald Yaros, an assistant professor at the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, has found a solution with what he calls a “MEEC” (manageable educational environment of collaboration).

“MEECs are a large, multifaceted approach to a collaborative environment,” Yaros told eCampus News. “You must have a set of elements that engage students for an entire class, so there is no deviation whatsoever.”

The MEEC is a mobile app with content specific to Yaros’ journalism course, part of a collection of experimental courses at Maryland that try to challenge students in unconventional ways. The app keeps students busy with relevant course material, such as polls, blog posts, quizzes, and videos, delivered to their iPads throughout the lecture. Students are simply too occupied with their classwork to surf the web.

“The interactivity is a little overwhelming the first week for students,” Yaros said, “and some of them have to adjust. Some of them don’t like it. Some look up at the end of the period and can’t believe it’s a 70-minute class.”

He is still working on the best content to engage students and the best time to introduce it during the class.

“It’s thinking every 10 minutes about what you are doing,” he said. “What could you be doing to maximize how people psychologically engage with information? In my opinion, if you don’t do that, these devices, they are a distraction.”

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